A Trip to Ottawa
“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?
- Jesus (Mt 5:46)
Recently, my eight year old son, Joe, was selected as one of ten students from across Canada to be awarded by the National Center for Truth and Reconciliation for an art piece he created in school. The piece was about the Canadian residential schools. Here is a brief summary: In an attempt to create a system where indigenous people groups could be integrated into mainstream culture, residential schools were created for aboriginal children to be educated in what it meant to be Canadian. Many of these schools were run in partnership between the government and the church and despite the original intent, the schools became a breeding ground for racism, abuse, genocide and exploitation. This system is called the hidden Canadian holocaust. The statistics indicate that 50,000 children died in this system from the 1870’s and was not fully shut down until 1996.
I admit that prior to Joe’s selection, and his all-expense paid trip to Ottawa to be honored by the government and residential school survivors, I had little time for the emphasis on Aboriginal traditions in schools. That was a mistake and I was humbled by the words that my son wrote in his journal:
“When we are not friends we don’t treat each other well. There is fighting and war and things like that. It is not what God wants… I hope when people look at my art that they can be a part of making Canada like how I imagine it. That we would work to have reconciliation with Aboriginals, but also just reaching out for forgiveness and peace, like I have to do when I make mistakes and fight with my siblings. When you look at my art remember that we need to treat people properly - the way they were meant to be treated.”
These words served as an encouragement to me. I may want to interject my opinion of why a particular political ideal is ridiculous or why I disagree with certain lifestyle choices, and “unfriend” anyone whose opinion doesn’t match my own. However, if I do that, I cut off the chance to love them. Through this experience I was reminded that behind almost every debate there is usually a person who simply desires to be understood. There is no shortage of people to disagree with. Next time it happens I want to take the time to ask more questions so I can try to understand what the world looks like through their eyes instead of being irritated that they don’t think like me. I may gain perspective, my opinions may (or may not) shift but no matter what I’ll have a chance to be a better reflection of Jesus’ desire for my life. Is anyone willing to take that challenge with me?
- Danny Ferguson